Settlement can still be reached before the end of summer: B.C. education minister

B.C. education minister Peter Fassbender says he is encouraged by the resumption of bargaining this week.

BCTF President Jim Iker and BCPSEA lead negotiator Peter Cameron agreed last week to resume bargaining on August 8.

Fassbender says Iker and Cameron have held discussions since the end of school year, but the full bargaining teams have not met since that time.

“It is an encouraging sign to me because it is the first time that the entire teams on both sides have met together. So I am looking forward to seeing negotiations begin in earnest as of this Friday,” says Fassbender. “In saying that, I am also optimistic that we can reach a negotiated settlement.”

Fassbender reiterated the province had no plan to legislate teachers back to work.

“We have been on this treadmill for far too long,” he says. “We need long term stability and legislation does not create that. It just prolongs the very dysfunction that we had.”

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The resumption of negotiations was announced one day after Finance Minister Mike de Jong promised that parents of children under 13 years old would receive $40 per day per child for childcare should the strike drag on in September.

At the time, BCTF President Jim Iker said the decision striped funding from B.C. students.

“This scheme will not help improve class sizes, increase support for children with special needs, or provide more one-on-one time for all students. It is my hope that the government will redirect its energies into reaching an agreement with BC teachers through mediation this summer,” said Iker.

Today, Fassbender said the childcare subsidy was meant to help offset the burden on parents caught up in the strike.

He would not comment on whether the offer hurt the negotiations.

In July, BCTF asked for mediation, but Fassbender says mediation won’t work until teachers move into the government’s ‘affordability zone.’

Two potential mediators refused to step in to the talks earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver School Board is calling for outside intervention in the dispute, saying an industrial inquiry commissioner, who could issue a public report on necessary solutions, should be brought in.

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B.C.’s 40,000 teachers went on strike June 17. The main areas of dispute remain teachers’ wages and learning conditions in the classrooms.

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